The Family Project: Teen vaping concern
Q. I overheard my teenage son talking about vaping. When I asked him about it, he told me it was flavored water vapor. Should I be concerned?
The panelists noted that use of e-cigarettes and vaping has skyrocketed across the United States, including in Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.
“When we saw the results of the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth Survey [the most recent one], we were very excited because students’ use of tobacco had gone down,” panelist Denise Continenza said.
“But when we saw their answers to the question about e-cigarettes, the results were alarming,” said Continenza.
The study showed that 31 percent of high school seniors in Lehigh County had at some time used or were using e-cigarettes.
Panelist Chad Stefanyak said more people of all ages are vaping because they think it is safer than smoking combustible cigarettes.
“A lot of our students report that vape products can be purchased online. No one is carding them online,” said Stefanyak.
In order to make a purchase online, you have to have a credit card, panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said.
“Kids have to get the credit cards from their parents, so once again, it is the parents’ responsibility to be aware of what their children are doing,” said Mercado-Arroyo said.
While water is the base for vape products, other chemicals are added in varying types and amounts by different manufacturers, Continenza said.
These chemical commonly include formaldehyde, glycerin and propylene glycol, approved for use in consumer products such as house paint, rug cleaner and aerosol disinfectants, but not as vaporized products to be inhaled, said Continenza, adding, “The chemicals are hidden under flavorings such as fruit and chocolate.”
Parents should be concerned about use of liquid vapors, Stefanyak said, emphasizing, “They can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
“What makes it difficult for parents is that the products do not have the smell of tobacco or marijuana that they are accustomed to, so it is easy for kids to hide their vaping,” said Stefanyak,
Continenza said people are being hospitalized with “popcorn lung,” believed to be caused by vaping.
“What makes this even scarier is that we don’t know what the long-term consequences will be,” said Continenza.
States are beginning to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes and other liquid-vapor products, but Stefanyak said Pennsylvania is just catching up.
House Bill 97 to limit sales of e-cigarettes to minors is working its way through the legislature in Harrisburg.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, and Denise Continenza, extension educator.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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